Protesters in Goma reject east Congo ceasefire agreement

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GOMA - Hundreds marched in Democratic Republic of Congo's eastern city of Goma on Thursday to protest against an agreement between African leaders to stop attacks by M23 rebels, saying it does not tackle Rwanda's alleged backing of the group.

The Tutsi-led M23 group is waging its most serious offensive in eastern Congo since 2012, further destabilising an area where armed groups have wrangled over land and resources for decades.

The resurgence in fighting has caused a diplomatic rift with neighbouring Rwanda, which Congo accuses of backing the group. Rwanda denied this.

African leaders under the auspices of former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta are mediating in the crisis.

After a summit in Angola on Wednesday, they declared a ceasefire starting Friday, and said the M23 must withdraw from occupied territory or face intervention by regional forces.

But demonstrations broke out in Goma, a town around 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the current frontline which the rebels seized in 2012, and where insecurity has spurred anti-Rwanda sentiment in recent months and fuelled protests.


Demonstrators, some on scooters, made their way through the city centre behind banners denouncing the international community's "silence and ambiguity" towards massacres organised "via Rwanda".

"These accords and summits do not interest us. What interests us is peace and security," said civil society activist and protest leader John Banyene, a Congolese flag tied over his shoulders.

The march ended at the French and British consulates, where Banyene read out a memorandum asking foreign powers to sanction Rwanda and Uganda for their alleged involvement with the M23.

"These people have already organised so many summits on the DRC that have not brought any solutions," protester Placide Nzilamba told .

The M23 have not directly commented on the summit, which both Congo and Rwanda took part in.

One of their leaders, Bertrand Bisimwa, tweeted on Thursday that the group remained open to dialogue.

Thousands have been displaced in recent weeks as Congo's army has struggled to stop the M23's advance.

Many have sought refuge in and around Goma, which the rebels briefly seized in 2012 before they were pushed back the following year.

The United Nations in August said it had "solid evidence" that Rwandan troops had been fighting alongside the M23.

The United States and the European Union have called on Rwanda to stop backing the group.

(Reporting by Djaffar Sabiti; Writing by Sofia Christensen; Editing by Bate Felix and Gareth Jones)

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